If you love motorcycles, you might have heard that some of their parts are 3D printed. Perhaps you want to test this theory and print your own fairings to save some money. But is it actually possible to 3D print motorcycle fairings?
It’s possible to 3D print motorcycle fairings, but these parts will be fragile unless you’re using a very high-end printer. Generally speaking, it’s also more expensive to 3D print a motorcycle fairing than buy it from a spare parts dealer.
In this article, I’ll break down how you can 3D print your fairings and explain how professionals do it. I’ll also describe why 3D printed motorcycle fairings won’t look and feel like those made by a professional.
How To Make Your Own 3D Printed Motorcycle Fairings
It’s possible to 3D print a motorcycle fairing using a home-grade 3D printer. However, most printers in this category will only manage to create small parts.
It’s also time-consuming to print using fiberglass, so most people go for PETG, the same material that makes water bottles. Although it’s solid and slightly brittle, it probably isn’t what you need for a protective motorcycle covering.
Still, if you want to 3D print small motorcycle fairings such as windshield covers, here are a few simple steps to take:
1. Take a Picture of the Fairing
Do this using a clear camera, and remember to take various pictures of the object from different angles. If you don’t have access to the actual part, Google it and download the image.
You need as many views as possible to get the final result just right.
2. Upload the Picture Into a Modeling Program
Take your picture and upload it to a modeling application such as AutoDesk Fusion 360.
After uploading it, take detailed measurements in different areas of both the physical object and the picture. Then, enter the dimensions into the program, and it’ll rescale the measurements to the correct size.
3. Create a Sketch of the Fairing
Use the modeling software to develop a 3D sketch of the part you want to print.
When you’re done, export to a slicing software such as Cura, this program will give the 3D printer detailed information about what you want to print.
You might want to do a test print with a cheaper material at this point to see how it comes out.
4. Extrude the Print
Print the motorcycle fairing with your 3D printer using your filament of choice. ABS will print when heated at around 230 to 260ºC (446 to 500°F). PETG will print at 210 to 250ºC (410 to 482°F).
One of the most robust filaments you can use to 3D print your motorcycle fairings is PAHT CF15. This is a polyamide that is reinforced with carbon fiber. It prints at above 200ºC (392°F).
If you want a more visual process for 3D printing your motorcycle parts, watch how a motorbike owner created his own fuel tank gasket in this YouTube video:
Why 3D Printing Motorcycle Fairings Doesn’t Make the Cut
It may seem like a genius idea to try and print these parts at home. But if you’ve ever used a 3D printer before, you’ll know it’s not as easy as it sounds.
It’s Time Consuming
Although making a basic 3D printed motorcycle fairing is a straightforward process, it’s not always easy.
You’re likely to go through numerous prints before getting the perfect fitting for your motorcycle.
To give you a rough time frame, Superstrata takes an average of 10 hours to complete a single electric bicycle frame, and this is a professional bike manufacturer.
Building your own fairings will cost you anywhere from $5000 to $20,000, depending on the part’s complexity.
This is down to the sheer amount of materials you’ll need. When printing for a motorcycle, you need it to be as solid and durable as possible. That means extra thick layers and lots of filament.
It would make more sense to buy the fairing from a professional outlet in the long run.
You’ll Need a High-End 3D Printer
Because the filament is extruded at high temperatures of about 200°C (392°F), not every printer will be able to use this carbon fiber filament.
Besides, it’ll most likely damage the brass nozzles of ordinary 3D printers. As a result, you’ll need to invest in special nozzles to get the job done.
You Won’t Get Strong Parts
Your prints are also not likely to be as robust as you need them to be.
Unless you’ve invested in a mid-range to high-end 3D printer and filament, you’ll have to stay away from printing the protective parts of your motorcycle.
PETG and ABS may be brittle, but they won’t fulfill their defensive duties on your bike.
How Professionals 3D Print Motorcycle Fairings
3D printing has been around for 40 years, and motorcycle companies have embraced it wholeheartedly.
Zortrax, a 3D printer manufacturer, has 3D printed an entire bike. In 2016, the Polish company showcased a motorcycle with fairings 3D printed with the M300 3D printer at the TCT show.
GT Moto now makes custom-built motorcycle parts with its Robo R2 3D printer. According to the company’s CEO, Sofi Tsingos, injection molding costs up to $10,000, which is pretty expensive even for a bike manufacturer. For this reason, GT Moto makes 3D prints of its motorcycle fairings in-house.
Here’s a brief overview of how these companies 3D print their motorcycle parts:
- Scanning the motorcycle parts. This procedure is done to get a geometrical picture of the motorcycle before the initial design of the fairings. The scanning is done by first placing cardboards with nodes on the bike’s frame. A scanner picks up the nodes and collects data on the shape of the area to be designed.
- Designing the prototype. The scanner uses the shapes to make the first version of the printed parts.
- Making revisions. Usually, professional designers will go through multiple repetitions of the same design before getting the dimensions, texture, and fitting right.
- Painting and finishing the print. This is the final phase of making the 3D printed fairing. When the prototype has evolved to a point where it’s ready for use, it undergoes some finishing touches. This could include inspecting for flaws and painting.
As you can see, it’s quite an involved process. So, unless you have the best printer, top-of-the-line scanner, and the time to invest in this, you’d be better off buying parts from the pros.
3D printing a motorcycle fairing is indeed possible. Professionals have done it successfully in recent times, some to the point of 3D printing an entire motorbike.
If you want to do it at home, remember that you’ll need to make a massive investment in a good printer and high-quality filament. Be prepared to also go through multiple revisions of your 3D printed part.
In short, it would be much more economical and less time-consuming to purchase finished motorcycle fairings from a professional dealer.